Cave and Dickinson

Important quotations from Cave on literature:

Literature= “signature of cognition in action” (20).

“Literature is the most far reaching and enduring vehicle…most revealing product and symptom of human cognition” (14).

Mind reading= “the ability to read minds certainly passes through the body…and the fact that all our bodies resonate physically with other bodies, real or imagined” (17). This brings us to “I Felt a Funeral in my Brain”, in which the reader moves with the poet following the procession through imagery.  Dickinson uses imagery in her poem to highlight movement: “creaking”, “mourners…to and fro”, “treading”, “beating like a drum”, etc.

In poetry, this is known as kinesthesia. It gives the poem a sense of natural and physical bodily movement- ex: heart beat, pulse, breathing. Further, it creates a tension along with the movement and images that are both figurative and descriptive.

Cave on kinesis:

Kinesis= “a faint but distant echo in the reader’s own motor response what it takes in sensorimotor terms to preform a highly specific gesture” (29). It’s not symbolic but reflective. Similarly, Dickinson’s imagery reflects emotions and thoughts.

Kinesic reading “brings to the surface something you’ve always felt when you read the text properly, but somehow ignored” (29)…

“a cognitive reading of literary texts then, would seek to uncover the hidden work of rapid inferencing and on-the-wing construction of meaning that makes it possible for an experienced reader…at times this may seem self-evident…we’re on the right track (23).

Kinesis plays are fundamental role in mind reading (two different aspects of the same process)

Mind reading is never unproblematic.

Other texts: “The Yellow Wallpaper”, “The Tell-Tale Heart”, “Bartleby the Scrinver” using unnatural narratives and movement.

Snow Much Research

  1. Emily Dickinson’s Poems
  2. “The Yellow Wallpaper” BLUE
  3. “The Tell-Tale Heart” BLUE
  4. A Midsummer Night’s Dream GREEN
  5. The Importance of Being Earnest GREEN
  6. “Ode to a Grecian Urn”
  7. “Bartleby the Scrivner” GREEN
  8. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao YELLOW
  9. Fun Home YELLOW

Okay, so this post isn’t really my way of thinking things out/studying so it’s going to be a little messy and then in a week or so when I work out all my research I can make it a lot clearer. So, I really want to have about 10 works prepared. I took 9 from the list. I haven’t decided which book I want to take as my extra.


Genre: For genre, I would probably prepare the yellow texts and discuss the coming of age genre told through two different mediums: novel vs. graphic novel. I still have like 100 pages left of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, so I’m going to hold off on researching and committing to a stance on it.

Alternatively, I could also use “Ode to a Grecian Urn” and speak about the genre of Ekphrasis and compare it to Achilles’ shield in the Iliad, which, technically can also go for historical context if I find the right research to support me.


Historical Context: I would probably work with my green texts and show how identity in literature differs through history. I’d show who has what agency and how it mattered- i.e. women’s identity, wealth, etc.

Alternatively, I could use these works for the genre category because one is fantasy and one literary fiction and discuss how the two provide different depictions of identity.


Theory: I did my presentations on “The Yellow Wallpaper” and “The Tell-Tale Heart” and both of these texts had unreliable narrators that descended into paranoia. “Bartleby the Scrivner” has this as well. I could group these three (or two or one, depending on the question) and use the theories I used for my presentations to make a convincing argument.

Alternatively, I could probably do a feminist theory reading of Emily Dickinson’s poems and “The Yellow Wallpaper” (or Fun Home).


Flexibility and Modularity: I think my alternatives (written in italics) allow me a lot of flexibility, so I’m not super concerned. I think it ‘s really plausible for me to find research on the topics I proposed and once I have that, and read through it/mark it up I’ll be in a pretty solid place. I also intend to pick a book that fits into all the categories as my extra. So far, I think Catcher in the Rye would fit into a lot of these categories, especially my coming of age genre one. But I think I’m just saying that because I really like that book. But yeah. So, over the weekend I’ll pull some research on these topics and I think that it’s just a matter of being overly prepared research wise and organizing my research so that I can quickly find things to write about. (Also I wrote this on Mircosoft Word and when I put it here my nice organized highlights went away)


“The Yellow Wall-Paper” Presentation

Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote “The Yellow Wall-Paper” in the late 19th century. In this story, the woman is significantly restrained by those around her and has no agency in her action. “The yellow Wall-Paper” is often read from a feminist view point; however, this is not necessarily the intentions that Gilman wished to draw attention to.

Her purpose was to draw attention to how unfairly and how drastically medical professionals treated women suffering from mild hysteria, or similar disorders. Gilman’s doctor, S. Weir Mitchell, diagnosed her with a strain of nervous prostration or Neuroasthenia. Gilman was placed in isolation and could not express herself through writing in order to “recover.” Gilman writes about this in her article: “Why I Wrote the Yellow Wall-Paper” in this article Gilman writes her story was: “ It was not intended to drive people crazy, but to save people from being driven crazy, and it worked.”

John Bak provides a different argument in his article: “Escaping the Jaundiced eye: Foucauldian Panopticism in CPG’s “The Yellow Wallpaper””

In it he discusses Foucault’s envisioned panopticon and compares it to the house that the protagonist was locked in.


FOUCULT (Taken from Discipline and Punish 1975)

At the periphery, an annular building; at the centre, a tower; this tower is pierced with wide windows that open onto the inner side of the ring; the peripheric building is divided into cells, each of which extends the whole width of the building; they have two windows, one on the inside, corresponding to the windows of the tower; the other, on the outside, allows the light to cross the cell from one end to the other. All that is needed, then, is to place a supervisor in a central tower and to shut up in each cell a madman, a patient, a condemned man, a worker or a schoolboy. By the effect of backlighting, one can observe from the tower, standing out precisely against the light, the small captive shadows in the cells of the periphery. They are like so many cages, so many small theatres, in which each actor is alone, perfectly individualized and constantly visible. The panoptic mechanism arranges spatial unities that make it possible to see constantly and to recognize immediately. In short, it reverses the principle of the dungeon; or rather of its three functions – to enclose, to deprive of light and to hide – it preserves only the first and eliminates the other two. Full lighting and the eye of a supervisor capture better than darkness, which ultimately protected. Visibility is a trap…

Hence the major effect of the Panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power. So to arrange things that the surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in its action; that the perfection of power should tend to render its actual exercise unnecessary; that this architectural apparatus should be a machine for creating and sustaining a power relation independent of the person who exercises it; in short, that the inmates should be caught up in a power situation of which they are themselves the bearers. To achieve this, it is at once too much and too little that the prisoner should be constantly observed by an inspector: too little, for what matters is that he knows himself to be observed; too much, because he has no need in fact of being so. In view of this, Bentham laid down the principle that power should be visible and unverifiable. Visible: the inmate will constantly have before his eyes the tall outline of the central tower from which he is spied upon. Unverifiable: the inmate must never know whether he is being looked at at any one moment; but he must be sure that he may always be so. In order to make the presence or absence of the inspector unverifiable, so that the prisoners, in their cells, cannot even see a shadow, Bentham envisaged not only venetian blinds on the windows of the central observation hall, but, on the inside, partitions that intersected the hall at right angles and, in order to pass from one quarter to the other, not doors but zig-zag openings; for the slightest noise, a gleam of light, a brightness in a half-opened door would betray the presence of the guardian. The Panopticon is a machine for dissociating the see/being seen dyad: in the peripheric ring, one is totally seen, without ever seeing; in the central tower, one sees everything without ever being seen. It is an important mechanism, for it automatizes and disindividualizes power. Power has its principle not so much in a person as in a certain concerted distribution of bodies, surfaces, lights, gazes; in an arrangement whose internal mechanisms produce the relation in which individuals are caught up. The ceremonies, the rituals, the marks by which the sovereign’s surplus power was manifested are useless. There is a machinery that assures dissymmetry, disequilibrium, difference. Consequently, it does not matter who exercises power. Any individual, taken almost at random, can operate the machine: in the absence of the director, his family, his friends, his visitors, even his servants (Bentham, 45). Similarly, it does not matter what motive animates him: the curiosity of the indiscreet, the malice of a child, the thirst for knowledge of a philosopher who wishes to visit this museum of human nature, or the perversity of those who take pleasure in spying and punishing. The more numerous those anonymous and temporary observers are, the greater the risk for the inmate of being surprised and the greater his anxious awareness of being observed. The Panopticon is a marvellous machine which, whatever use one may wish to put it to, produces homogeneous effects of power.

According to Bak, the Panopticon developed into an “unscrupulous method of inquisition that perpetuated fear and bread paranoia” (40). The Panopticon created a symbolic relationship between the observer and the observed. It was an instrument of fear and power. Through the transparent cells, the authoritative power inside the Panopticon was irreversible because only the warden could spy on the inmates, not vice versa. The constant unknowing gaze of the warden creates a sense of paranoia amidst the inmates. That being said, inside was relatively pleasant. This is similar to our protagonist’s living situation. She speaks about the house being nice but plagued by terrible yellow wallpaper. Foucault says that the Panopticon created a “faceless gaze” similarly in the story, the observer is unidentifiable because it stems from the protagonist’s paranoia. She speaks of “two bulbous eyes” personifying this gaze.

Bak writes, “what begins as a perfunctory dismissal of the paper’s “optic horror,” however, gradually develops into paranoia that Foucault says is inevitable with unabated surveillance” (43). Once she becomes aware of these unblinking eyes watching her she believes there is something behind the paper. This fuels her madness.

Bak argues that Gilman’s character ultimately escaped. He writes, “in objectifying herself through this imaginary woman, the narrator can free herself, if only in mind, from the external prison her husband places her in” (44). She doesn’t need complete freedom from confinement, rather specifically from the wallpaper that she believes to be monitoring her. That’s why she exclaims she has escaped after ripping the wallpaper. “And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back!” Once she transcends all levels of consciousness she is no longer aware of the gaze and denies The Panopticon’s reality. By doings so, she eliminates the control it has over her. Although she is clinically insane, internally she is devoid of the identity that her husband had inscribed upon her. As Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, who study 19th century literature writes: “the cure is worse than the disease”